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A spectacle of shame
by Boria Majumdar
May 02, 2007
This world cup, chaotic to start with and a spectator’s trauma all through, just could not avoid the extremity it deserved. It had to end in a farce -- and it did. With every ICC official booed by the crowd at the presentation ceremony, it was apparent that the tournament had been an organizational disaster. From planning to implementation, nothing has gone right for the ICC and the organizers over the last month and a half. The end result — a spectacle of shame. Without a final botch up, how could a tournament jinxed from the start, come to an end? Even a superlative Adam Gilchirst century could not save the world cup final from being shamed. And the ICC, cricket’s apex body, are disgraced more than anyone else at the end of this 49 day pain.

In fact, it was insufferable in the end. Faux pas after faux pas, goof up after goof up. As if the blunder with the light wasn’t enough, the match referee, Jeff Crowe, has rounded things off blaming Rudi Koertzen, the third umpire and Steve Bucknow and Aleem Dar, the on field umpires, for the eventual embarrassment. Apparently, they did not know the rules or had forgotten them! Why Crowe as match referee did not remind them is a matter not to be raised.

Having watched the entire tournament, it is perhaps right to say that on the one side are piled the numerous negatives, the tournament’s lasting legacy, and on the other side stands tall the lone brilliance of Adam Gilchirst, the cup’s saving grace.

The long-term impact of a major international sporting event on the host society is perhaps its most significant legacy. It was expected that the cricket world cup in the Caribbean would be no exception. When asked what the world cup means to Barbados, Steven Alleyne, CEO of the Barbados World Cup Organizing committee, had emphasized a seven part legacy vision, which included improving the standard of living for the ordinary Bajan, converting Barbados into an export economy and engender a huge boost to tourism, the islands major industrial activity. In Jamaica for example, the world cup was expected to ease the crime situation in the inner city areas. Barricades made of car remains, integral to inner city gang wars in Kingston, were removed to welcome tourists to the Jamaican capital.

It is fair to say that the world cup was looked upon as the most significant event in the islands’ history since independence and was supposed to offer an opportunity to project the image of an united global Caribbean community while also leaving behind opportunities to force more tangible intra West Indian diplomatic and business networks.

However, none of these objectives have been fulfilled. Economically, the world cup has been a disaster. The economic legacy of the world cup, declared IMF, would depend on the Caribbean countries ability to market themselves as key tourism destinations following the event. This, it can be suggested, necessitates the opening up of new tourist markets, for the Caribbean already gets its share of tourists from the UK, USA and Canada. While Barbados Tourism Authority is doing much to open up the Indian market, negotiations with the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Air India are cases in point, little have been done by the other islands so far. The IMF declares that CWC has boosted private and public construction across the nine host countries and generous tax concessions, external grants, and public borrowing contributed to this boost. It is, however, skeptical about whether the positive effects on the tourism sector could extend into the medium or long term. There is further concern that the overall legacy of CWC 2007 could well be negative in light of its heavy fiscal costs and already high public debt burdens in the region.

Padamja Khandelwal, the IMF economist to have drawn up the report, is of the opinion that the economic benefits of the event may water down because matches are spread across multiple countries, and are taking place in the midst of the peak winter tourist season when occupancy rates are already very high in most of the Caribbean islands.

Politically too the world cup hasn’t been a success. DCP Mark Shields, investigating the Woolmer murder, while speaking to me, declared, “The world cup was a distraction. Deployment of police personnel for the world cup to Sabina Park was a distraction and has affected the crime situation in Jamaica.” For the record there has already been 300 or more murders in Jamaica in 2007, a spurt of 10% since last year. With police personnel not available to patrol the dangerous inner city areas, gang-wars have gone up significantly between January and March.

Socially, too the world cup has done little to bring the entire region together. The Jamaicans continue to hate the Bajans and vice versa. This was best borne out when my friend was giving an interview to BBC Bengali radio after the Sri Lanka New Zealand semi-final at Sabina Park. He was speaking in Bengali and mentioned Barbados a couple of times in the course of the interview only because the final was to be played there. A group of Jamaicans, inebriated as most people were post match, heard his say Barbados and immediately started hurling abuses at him. Some even tried to push him on more than one occasion and finally even tried to stop him from jumping on to the transport provided. His fault- he was speaking of Barbados while in Jamaica.

Finally, more than anything, Bob Woolmer’s death had cast a spell of gloom on the tournament, which not even Gilchrist can do away with. With the murder mystery still unsolved, the world cup will continue to be in the news for sometime, but for all the wrong reasons.

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